A paralysed man can walk again after receiving revolutionary treatment in Poland in a breakthrough hailed by one of the British scientists responsible as “more impressive than a man walking on the Moon”.
Darek Fidyka was paralysed from the chest down following a knife attack in 2010, but can now walk using a frame after nerve cells from his nose were transplanted into his severed spinal column, according to research published in the journal Cell Transplantation on Tuesday.
Fidyka is now recovering at the Akron Neuro-Rehabilitation Centre in Wroclaw, Poland. Specialist olfactory ensheathing cells, which form part of the sense of smell, were used in the treatment as they enable nearby nerve fibres to be continually regenerated.
Pawel Tabakow, consultant neurosurgeon at Wroclaw University, led a team of surgeons in removing one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs before transplanting cultured cells into the spinal cord in two crucial operations.
The scientists involved think that the cells, implanted above and below the injury, enabled damaged fibres to reconnect, although other researchers have reacted more sceptically.
“To me, this is more impressive than a man walking on the Moon. I believe this is the moment when paralysis can be reversed,” said Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, who led the British research team working on the joint project.
But other scientists were cautious, saying they must wait for the results of testing with more cases.